ABRAHAM showed he's learned a thing or two. / Photo: SUMIO YAMADA
The impression we have of Arthur Abraham is of a heavy hitter who can be outboxed, but Abraham reminded us that he is capable of producing a smart, strategic fight when outscoring his big German rival Robert Stieglitz on the weekend.
This rubber match between the 168-pound rivals was vigorously contested although I was a bit surprised at the split decision. Abraham appeared to be a clear winner, with a last-round knockdown seeming to put the matter beyond doubt.
BURNS, CRAWFORD: Emotion-charged atmosphere could be factor.
Burns +150; Crawford -180
Over 10.5 -185; under 10.5 +155
After two struggling performances in a row, Ricky Burns knows he will need to be at his absolute best when he defends his WBO lightweight title against mandatory challenger Terence Crawford in Glasgow on Saturday (TV on Sky Sports in the UK., AWE in the U.S.).
This fight is, potentially, about as tough and as tricky as it gets. Burns will have a roaring Scottish crowd behind him at the Scottish National Exhibition Centre, and he’s the more experienced and perhaps the physically stronger fighter; Crawford is unbeaten, fast, clever and a sharp puncher, and, at 26, he’s the younger man by four years.
VAZQUEZ (left) is skilled but SHAFIKOV brings pressure. / Photo: SUMIO YAMADA
Vazquez -140; Shafikov +120
Over 11.5 -160; under 11.5 +140
Mexico’s Miguel Vazquez has been an underrated fighter for much of his career, and after seven successful defences of the IBF lightweight title he is finally getting the respect he deserves. However, I believe that Vazquez’s four-year reign as champion is in considerable jeopardy when he meets Russia’s Denis Shafikov on neutral ground in Macau on Saturday — China’s Olympic gold medallist Zou Shiming tops the bill as far as the local populace is concerned but for boxing fans around the world the Vazquez-Shafikov fight is the true main event.
Shafikov, a 28-year-old southpaw, is unbeaten in 34 fights. Although held to a draw by Italy’s Brunet Zamora, he beat Zamora quite comfortably on points in a rematch two years later, which indicates to me that Shafikov is an improving fighter.
CHISORA, FURY: Hoping to set the stage for a rematch.
Chisora -500; Johnson +240
Over 9.5 -250; under 9.5 +180
Promoters Frank Warren and Mick Hennessy are joining forces to present British heavyweight rivals Tyson Fury and Dereck Chisora in separate bouts in London on Saturday (TV coverage on BoxNation in the U.K., PPV in the U.S. and Fight Network in Canada). The plan is that Fury and Chisora will meet in a rematch later this year. If all works out as planned, Fury and Chisora will win to whet the boxing public’s appetite for the return fight.
There is always the risk, though, that something might go wrong.
Pascal -145; Bute +125
Over 10.5 +100; under 10.5 -120
In America they call it “neighbourhood rivalry”, in Britain “local derby”, but whatever you call it, a fight between two boxers with sizeable followings from the same city always attracts keen interest, and such is the case when former champions Jean Pascal and Lucian Bute collide at the Bell Centre in Montreal on Jan. 18.
The two meet for the NABF light-heavyweight title, TV coverage on HBO in the U.S., Sky Sports in the U.K., and there are doubts hovering over both men, Pascal due to injury problems, Bute simply because his defeat against Carl Froch in May 2012 was the type of battering that can undermine a boxer's self-belief.
UCHIYAMA: power and pressure. / Photo: SUMIO YAMADA
The old year has wound down as far as boxing in the West is concerned but not so in the East, with two big shows featuring three intriguing title fights in Japan on New Year’s Eve.
These fights — featuring title defences by Japanese superstars Takashi Uchiyama and Kazuto Ioka and the always entertaining slugger Takashi Miura — should provide treats for aficionados and I always think it’s a shame that none of the Western TV outlets negotiates to show these fights, even if screened on a one-day delay due to the time difference.
PAULIE, ZAB, battle for Brooklyn bragging rights tonight. / Photo: TOM CASINO, for Showtime
Malignaggi +100; Judah -120
Over 10.5 -280; under 10.5 +240
The most intriguing fights aren’t always between superstars and they don’t have to feature an undefeated star-in-the-making either. A match between two veteran fighters can also have appeal if the ingredients of the match add up to a compelling contest. We have such a fight tonight when Paulie Malignaggi takes on Zab Judah at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
These are boxers who have held championships and who have been on boxing’s big stage many times.
PACQUIAO, RIOS: Speed versus toughness on HBO PPV tonight.
Pacquiao -500; Rios +300
Over 9.5 +130; under 9.5 -150
Eleven months after crashing face-first to the canvas against Juan Manuel Marquez in Las Vegas, Manny Pacquiao is back in the ring tonight, meeting Brandon Rios in a 12-round welterweight fight in the Chinese Special Administrative Region of Macau, with TV coverage on HBO PPV in the U.S. and BoxNation in the U.K. The fight takes place on Sunday morning in China to allow for peak-hour TV viewing in the U.S., as happened when Ali met Frazier in the Thrilla in Manila.
Pacquiao is the clear betting favourite, and I’m expecting him to win this fight. Bob Arum’s Top Rank organisation promotes both men, but Pacquiao is the big moneymaker and this match hasn’t been made to get him knocked off.
WARD made weight for tonight's fight, Rodriguez didn't
Friday’s weigh-in for tonight’s Andre Ward-Edwin Rodriguez fight on HBO (BoxNation in the UK) casts a shadow over the contest, with Rodriguez coming in two pounds over the super middleweight division limit and choosing to pay a forfeit of 20 per cent of his purse rather than trying to lose the excess. Rodriguez agreed to a second weigh-in on the morning of the fight, at which he agreed not to weigh more than 180 pounds.
I’m starting to wonder if there is any point in having weight divisions. Why not just agree to fight at the championship weight “or anything from two to five pounds over?”
GOLOVKIN, STEVENS: Full-distance fight isn't very likely.
Golovkin -1050; Stevens +500
Over 7.5 +180; under 7.5 -240
The boxing world is in agreement that tonight’s middleweight title fight between Gennady Golovkin and Curtis Stevens won’t be going the full 12 rounds at Madison Square Garden’s theatre (TV coverage on HBO in the U.S. and Sky Sports in the U.K.) Furthermore, there seems to be almost unanimous accord that Golovkin is going to win, probably quickly.
I’m certainly expecting Golovkin to retain his WBA and IBO titles with a stoppage victory but I think that Stevens is going to be dangerous initially, and I’m not sure that Golovkin is going to blow Stevens away as easily as some believe will be the case.
CHAVEZ, VERA: Junior's dedication doubted. / Photo: Chris Farina, Top Rank
Chavez -800; Vera +500
Over 8.5 +120; under 8.5 -140
The fight distance and the weight limit were changed but Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and Bryan Vera weighed in on Friday and we have a fight at the StubHub Center in the Los Angeles suburbs tonight (TV coverage on HBO).
The bout is now scheduled for 10 rounds, not 12 as originally intended. The original weight limit of 165 pounds was stretched to accommodate Chavez’s struggle to make weight. Chavez weighed in at 172.4 pounds on Friday, while Vera came in at 171.2 pounds, making this a catchweight contest.
CANELO didn't look intimidated at the weigh in. / Photo: TOM CASINO for Showtime
Mayweather -240; Alvarez +200
Over 10.5 -280; under 10.5 +240
There’s no question that Floyd Mayweather Jr. versus Saul “Canelo” Alvarez is a colossal event, and "The One" will quite likely set a record for pay per view buys. Will the fight live up to the hype, though? Is this fight coming too soon for the hugely popular Canelo?
I believe that the ingredients are there for a fight to remember. This clash of unbeaten champions pits a veteran master boxer going up against a strong young rival. Some might even see it as a “hero vs villain” type of fight, with many no doubt hoping that the brash and boastful Mayweather gets his comeuppance against a quietly confident young man who at the age of 23 is 13 years Mayweather’s junior.